Archive for March, 2013

Believing in the Real Presence

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Holy Thursday Reflection

Ex 12:1-8; 1 Cor 11: 23-26; Jn 13: 1-5

Dc. Larry Brockman

The Eucharist!  Today we celebrate the day Jesus introduced the Eucharist.

The earliest account of that event is the one you just heard from 1 Corinthians.  It was written down decades earlier than the accounts in the three synoptic Gospel.  And what did Jesus say as he took the bread and blessed it?  He said “This is my body for you” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood”.  He went on to say: ”For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes”.

In a few moments, you will share in the body of Christ, just as the first apostles did a couple of thousand years ago.  We have almighty God, Jesus Christ, present with us right here and now in this room- body, soul, and divinity!  And in a few minutes, we will take him into ourselves and all of us will be in communion with him at the same time.  Isn’t that exciting!

But you know what?  Over the years, we have become dulled to the miracle of the Eucharist.  One of the main contentions in the Reformation of the 1500’s was over the reality of the Eucharist.  The reformers talked about how the Eucharist wasn’t really the body and blood of Christ.  After all, they couldn’t see or feel Christ’s presence with their senses.  Some said that Jesus was there in parallel in spirit, but only as long as the ceremony was conducted.  Others believed the Eucharist was just a symbol, not the real thing.  Today, many people, even alleged Christians, scoff at the idea of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

But as Catholics, we are called upon to believe that the Eucharist we receive is the real body and blood of Christ.  It is part of the mystery of our faith.  And the Eucharist is the food we need to help us remain in Communion with the Lord as we face the realities and trials and sufferings of life.

Still, has God ever spoken to us to validate our faith in the Eucharist?  As a matter of fact, He has!  A couple of years ago I was awakened to how reality of the Eucharist has been validated by a friend and his wife..  These friends talked about the “Eucharistic Miracle” they had seen.  They had travelled to Italy, and toured some of the tourist sites.  Among them was a “Eucharistic Miracle” display in Lanciano, Italy.  They told me that during the consecration of a host in the year 750, the host actually turned into flesh and blood!  The people at the time had all seen it; but even more to the point, they had preserved the evidence,  And even now, some 1300 year later, the flesh and blood was still preserved and on display.  They told me how samples of the evidence had been tested, and validated that it was real human flesh and blood.  I found that all just astounding- that the bread and wine had actually turned to real flesh and blood.

And then, a couple of years later, I discovered that this was not the only such miracle.  There were, in fact, dozens of Eucharistic Miracles that had occurred over the centuries.  The evidence of these miracles had been carefully reviewed by the Church. and a number of them had been validated as genuine,  kind of like how the Church validates miracles that have been worked in the name of a person who is being considered for Canonization as a Saint.  The Church collected information from some 126 of these validated Eucharistic Miracles and made giant displays that told their stories and documented them.  These displays are part of the Vatican Museum, while the original evidence remains on display, where possible, at the original sites.

The Miracles are of various kinds.  Some of them are the actual change in the material from bread and wine to flesh and blood.  Others involve lost or stolen hosts that were later found or recovered in perfect condition.  Some of these have remained in perfect condition for centuries.  Still others involve hosts where the image of Jesus appears on the hosts.  And then there are miraculous Communions.  Hosts that miraculously made their way to communicants; or Communicants that have lived on the Eucharist alone- no other food for months.

A couple of years ago, a group of the Faithful here in the US  Called “Una Fides”, Latin for “One Faith”; paid to have these Vatican Displays replicated and brought them over to this country for making tours of our Churches.  They wanted more of the faithful to experience the evidence of what God had done for us in giving us the Eucharist.

On Friday, April 5, all of you will have the opportunity to come and see these displays while on the field trip arranged by Chaplain Walk to my Parish, Holy Family.  Come see the photographs and read the stories of some 37 of these Miracles.  And know that you do not believe in vain.  Because The host that you will receive today is the body of Christ!

We Are All Made Perfect Through Suffering

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Holy Thursday Reflection

Heb 2: 9b-10

Dc. Larry Brockman


It’s something we all try to avoid.  Even Jesus tried to avoid it.  He prayed fervently to His Father on this very day thousands of years ago that God would spare him the cup he was destined for.  And yet, as Paul says in our reading, it was the Father’s will that He make the leader of the “sons of glory”  “Perfect through Suffering”.  Yes, suffering.

Two things about this stand out:  First, God is bringing many sons to glory.  That can include all of us!  We can choose to be part of the “Sons of Glory”.  But it means we have to follow our Leader.  And that relates to the second thing that stands out, that we must all bear our part of the suffering the Father has allocated to us- that is, whatever cross we were destined to bear.  And these crosses are hard for us- standing up for our faith when it is challenged; taking care of children or an elderly parent; avoiding an addiction to the things of this world; working quietly for years and years to support the family; or bearing with an illness or limitation- just to name a few.

But it is worth it: the crown of glory that we will share in at the Resurrection, our own resurrection on the last day.

The Good News of the Incarnation

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Lent

Gen 17: 3-9; Jn 8: 51-59

Dc. Larry Brockman


It’s too good to be true.  But it is true- Jesus is God made man.

The people of Jesus’ time saw him as just another person.  They didn’t believe he was God made man.  It never even occurred to them, especially the Jewish leaders.  But then He says in today’s Gospel:  “Whoever keeps my word will never see death”.  Yet his word, his teachings were revolutionary; and his promise of not tasting death seemed madness.  Jesus taught things like love your enemies; don’t condemn others; turn the other cheek; and give to the poor.  He used the beatitudes as a rallying cry.  And the beatitudes spoke about the humble and the meek and poor and persecuted, not the strong and capable and self-confident and in-control.  It was a litany of “do’s” rather than a litany of “do not’s” like the ten commandments.  Jesus teaching wasn’t consistent with their culture; it wasn’t their way.  They had come to interpret the scriptures and the law in human terms because they didn’t seek to “know” God; they only knew about him and His law.  It was like they were trying to recognize the face of a person from a description rather than from a photograph.  But in so doing, they were missing so many of the features of the true face.

The same thing can happen to us.  We can study the scriptures and the Catechism and the words and concentrate on knowledge about God and the law of God but, in the process, fail to really know God.  And it is in knowing God that we learn the most important lessons about following Him.

First of all, we can know God by knowing Jesus, his son.  That means knowing the Gospels so well that we actually live out the values of the Gospels in our lives.  Second, we know God by praying- praying in such a way that God is included in all of our decisions, kind of like we communicate and dialog with a good friend or confidant about our lives.

Lent is a perfect time to get to know God.  We should be taking the necessary time to read the Gospels so that Jesus words in them are a living experience to us, and we should be taking the time to pray and reflect on our lives so we can ask Jesus to help us and to be with us through thick and thin.

If we know God and have a feel for how His son lived and breathed life on this earth then we will come to be like Jesus.  And when that happens, we will have a strong sense of Christian hope- Christian hope that no matter how tough the going gets, when we know God and follow after the way His son Jesus acted, we will be saved for eternal life.  Christian hope guarantees that there is something better- everlasting life, because a true Christian will never taste death.  And they know it!

Standing Up For What We Believe In

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Thursday of the Third Week in Lent

Jer 7: 23-28; Lk 11: 14-23

Dc. Larry Brockman

Are we a Kingdom divided against itself?  Has faithfulness diminished amongst us?  Is the Word of God banished from our speech?    I think it is fair to say that there are signs that these things are happening to Christians as a whole and to the Catholic Church in specific in today’s world.  Today, there are strong voices of dissent amongst Catholics.  These voices of dissent pay lip service to the Creed each Sunday because they don’t really believe in everything the Church teaches.  Rather, they pick and choose with the attitude that they can discern for themselves.

Make no mistake about it.  The Jeremiah prophecy applies as much today as it did to the countless generations of Israelis who didn’t listen to their prophets and didn’t walk in the ways of the Lord.

Let me point out a few, for example:  A divorce rate over 50 %; Sunday Church attendance at about 30%; rampant immorality on TV and in our movies and on the internet that reflects itself in our music and dress as well; 4 Million abortions a year in this country and a society that tolerates it; and a society that is slowly legalizing marijuana and gay marriage.  Even though this congregation may be a bright spot in the midst of our society, the point is that, it is not enough.  It’s just not enough.  More is required of us, the God fearing folk.

You see, that’s what the parable is all about.  Just like the palace in the parable, the Christian element of our society is under attack.  We are depending on a strong man, fully armed to guard our palace.  But just who is this strong man?  It represents the Church.  And the Church consists of not just the building, but all of us believers as well.

Today, our strong man doesn’t appear to be strong enough because secular society is getting too strong in its demands  They have taken away our religious freedom and are poised to disband our institutions- schools and hospitals and other agencies.  We stand the danger of being overrun by the enemy.

Now our strength comes from our unity; and from the obedience that breeds unity.  That is the armor that our strong man depends on- all of us.  Unity and compliance is what Jeremiah is calling for.  But the Old Testament people had hardened their hearts.  They turned their backs to the Lord.  And it applies to us as well, doesn’t it.  Because 70% of our Catholic brethren have turned their back on the Church, and have hardened their hearts.

So, what’s the answer, what’s the way out?  In a word, evangelization-   We have got to evangelize, starting with our own people –  Our brothers and sisters, children, parents, friends, co-workers, playmates, you name it.

How do we evangelize?  We do it, first of all, by our example,. So “Let us bow down in worship; let us sing joyfully to the Lord; and let us acclaim the rock that saves us”.  And then, we do it by being pro-active.  Know about your faith so you can intelligently answer their questions; show them that you are involved; practice what the Church preaches, all of it; and lastly, but most importantly, tell them how great it is to belong, to be a member of the Kingdom of God.  And then, welcome them home.    Yes indeed, “If today you hear his voice, ‘Harden not your hearts”.

Reconciling Justice and Our Self Interests

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Third Sunday in Lent

Ex 3: 1-8a, 13-15;1 Cor 10: 1-6, 10-12; Lk 13: 1-9

Dc. Larry Brockman


Things haven’t changed much in 2000 years, have they?  A tower collapses in downtown Jerusalem; a horrendous atrocity occurs in far-away Galatia, and how does the crowd surrounding Jesus interpret these events?  They seem to think that the people who were killed by the tower, or those victimized by the atrocity, were bigger sinners, and so, God was targeting them specifically and what is more, that these victims even deserved it.  It’s as if everyone else has a problem, but we don’t.

But Jesus counters this thinking very sharply.  He says, no, indeed, these people were not greater sinners; they didn’t deserve destruction any more than anyone else; it just happened to be their time.  And then he tells the crowd that unless they all repent, they will suffer the same destruction.

Well isn’t it the same today with us?  We read the news, and are so preoccupied with what’s going on elsewhere, we don’t see the problems in our own home court.  A school massacre occurs in Connecticut or Virginia or Colorado.  And we say, there must be a problem in those places.  Yes, there is a problem there, but there is also a problem right here.  The problem is not selective; it is across the whole country.  It is the work of the devil, and it is influencing all of us just the same as it is influencing people in Colorado or Connecticut or Virginia.  It may manifest itself differently, but it is there all the same.

In the first reading, Moses encounters God through the burning bush.  And the message the Lord gives is this:  That He is their God, and that the people should listen to their God, have faith in him no matter what; keep His commandments; and then he will save them from their terrible enslavement to Pharaoh and Egypt.  Further, the Lord designates Moses as his authority to speak in His name.

Then, in the second reading, Paul points out that even though God was present to the Israelites as they went and they had a leader, Moses, who was trying to guide them as a group, they only paid lip service to Him as their God, and His commandments; and they were not listening to Moses and the other leaders.  And so, many of them really did not please God.  They sought evil things and grumbled, and these were dealt with severely.  So, God can be with us, and His authority can be right in our midst, but unless we recognize Him and respond to Him, we are subject to destruction.  It can happen to us too.

Now, basically, the problem is this:  The secular world is looking for justice, peace, and prosperity.  But we individuals are just looking for our own happiness.  The two need to be reconciled with each other, and that comes through God because only God can bring real truth to this tension.   But, the trouble is that we cannot do it alone with God.  The parable of the fig tree gives us a hint as to the answer.  On its own, the fig tree was floundering.  But notice the landowner agrees to delay destruction of his fig tree while the gardener applies water and fertilizer to it, and gives the tree another year to shape up.  Jesus is telling us that God will delay our destruction as well- if we agree to be watered and fertilized by our caretakers.  In our case, the gardener is the Church- it is the Church that has the water and fertilizer we need, the wisdom and teaching of God, the reconciliation of our self-interests with the greater good of society.

And so, the question for us today is this.  When I am troubled, and pray for God’s help, what resources do I bring to my prayer and reflection?  Do I listen carefully to what the Pope and Bishops have to say?  Do I pay attention to the guidance that God gives me through the Church?  Do I value the Bible and the Catechism and the other resources available from the Church?  Because just like that fig tree in the parable we can only bear fruit if we are properly watered and fertilized with the right sources of inspiration.  If our inspiration and thinking is tied to our own devices, or even worse, to what the secular culture is saying- like the people of Jesus time- then we are in trouble.  But if our inspiration and thinking are based on the foundation that the Church provides, then we will not be caught by surprise when our moment comes.